Canzo Empyrean (partially found underground film; 2007)
|Canzo Empyrean logo, taken from the film's now-defunct website.|
Underground filmmaker Justin Fornal (based in The Bronx, New York) is perhaps best known for his work as alter ego Baron Ambrosia, an eccentric food critic and "culinary ambassador to the world" (in his own words), who starred in a self-produced web series in 2007 titled Underbelly NYC, as well as 2 TV series; the 2008-2013 public access show Bronx Flavor and the short-lived 2011-2012 Cooking Channel series The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia, though he is also known by many for his notoriously elusive 2007 underground film Canzo Empyrean (which is said to have been shot over the course of a decade).
The film, which borrows characters from the G.I. Joe universe, is set in a futuristic dystopia, where AIDS runs rampant and, as a result, sex has been outlawed. With a run time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, the underground feature is particularly notorious for it's concluding scene, for which a choreographed fight was shot (illegally) atop the Brooklyn Bridge's Manhattan tower, ultimately landing Fornal in jail on top of being issued a $160 fine.
Canzo Empyrean premiered in June of 2007 in Monrovia, Liberia to mass praise (allegedly even going as far as inspiring a 'Canzo' street gang) and was screened in the US for the time time the following year, in a once-abandoned underground ballroom/cinema, as previously restored by Fornal and subsequently dubbed the "Mastabah to Megiddo" (requiring roughly 40 minutes of travelling through underground passageways to reach, some of which must be traversed by wading through waist-deep water).
At least one person has claimed to have contacted Fornal to try and secure a copy of the film and was informed that if they were to complete a series of tasks (namely involving spray painting the Canzo Empyrean logo onto a total of 20 items in their city, including a police car) that they would be provided with a uniquely watermarked copy of the film, but not before being given a stern warning that there would be "serious consequences" were their copy to ever find it's way online. Despite this, copies are alleged to have shown up for sale via private online collectors' groups, fetching upwards of $500 (though this has never actually been proven and is, at this point, merely a rumour).
A total of roughly 45 minutes of footage from the 140 minute feature have found their way online via both the film's bizarre official website (which is now defunct, though still accessible via The Wayback Machine) and Fornal's Baron Ambrosia YouTube channel, a linear compilation of which can be seen below.
- An anonymous invitation to the film's 2008 US premiere; 03 Jun 2008. Last retrieved 05 Mar 2015.
- Sony Vegas article on Justin Fornal. Last retrieved 05 Mar 2015.
- Blog post from Matt (of BIGGER SPLASHES at Blogger) outlining his unfulfilled effort to obtain a copy of Canzo Empyrean; 10 Jun 2011. Last retrieved 09 Mar 2015.
- Archive of the official Canzo Empyrean website, via The Wayback Machine; 11 Sep 2011. Last retrieved 09 Mar 2015.